Monday, June 11, 2012

Tibet is the Soul of its People

I tell people that I am all about photography but in truth as I look back at my trips over the last 10 years my trips have really been about the culture of the place I am visiting; the pulse, its inner being, its soul.  This could not be a more true a statement than here in Tibet. 53 years of severe repression, loss and destruction starting with Chairman Mao that is still being carried out today in different forms. 

Books like Skytrain and Daughters of Tibet have offered me a look back in time to complement what we are reading in the press today. Then I get to fill in the truth, my truth by seeing in person what is happening on the ground plus open 1:1 discussions with, Lum Bum my wonderful Tibetan guide who not only has guided other photographers but also Bradley Mayhew, Author of the Lonley Planet Guide, Tibet.  I did not know this when I signed on.

Yesterday, our 1st stop was the Chachang (sp) Monastery which sits way above the mighty Yellow River

While it is small in physical size it is full of soul.  Layers upon layers of Buddhism and tradition. Today it is being re-built with a few artifacts that were hidden by the locals and mostly newer replicas.  My biggest take away was with a discussion with a monk who told us  that he had escaped to Darmasala, India the home of Tibet in Exile for 20+ years yet decided to return to Tibet because he feels that Tibet is his true home, This is the sentiment of many.

The absolute highlight of the day was the Achunzon (sp) nunnery. Another 1st experience for Lorrie and just wonderful !  Blue skies, green grass, clean air, 3 resident donkeys, a few dozen goats and true peacefulness. We were hosted by 2 nuns who we shared meals with, slept in their humble homes, wandered the grounds and got to sit in on morning  prayer.

I bedded down in a small 1 room house with a novice nun, Tenzen Dun Kar about 16 years of age.  Since I only know 2 words in Tibetan so far and Tenzen speaks no English there were lots of laughs as the 4 of us (me, Tashi the Driver, Lum Bum and Tenzen fumbled through blowing up the air mattress.  Topped off with my Target sleeping bag Tenzen insisted that I still needed another blanket and she proceed to tuck me in with her extra blanket on top of my sleeping bag.  How sweet. 

The little one room house that Tenzen sleeps in. 

Tenzens bed and prayer platforn on the left.  My blow up mattress on the right.

Sitting in on morning prayer was another 1st for me.  The prostration, the chanting in the temple all so moving.

I feel like I have been here for a week but it’s only been 2 days.  Wow.  Tibetan culture, language, Buddhism, politics.  Now to build on my 2 words Tibetan vocabulary of Hello (Dem) and Goodbye (Denshe)-I have a long way to go. ;-).  Stay tuned.

Carpe Diem,